Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Disney's Frozen

Frozen is a BEAST. It came out in November 2013 and as of April 2014 is still in theaters. It's become the highest grossing animated film of all time, which puts it ninth on the all time list. The theme song “Let It Go” has slaughtered everything in its wake, winning about every music award imaginable. I'm also pretty sure 1 out of every 3 videos on YouTube is currently a “Let It Go” cover or parody. Look at how popular it is against the the YouTube Garbage All-Stars:

Let It Go” 15.8 million results
Miley Cyrus 13.8 million results
Justin Bieber 13.7 million results
Katy Perry 9.4 million results
Gangnam Style 6.9 million results

As those numbers show, just because something is vastly popular doesn't mean it's even remotely good or worthy of praise. So does this film deserve its massive popularity? Let's find out with A Ghoul Versus Frozen.

Our film opens in the icy mountains of Arendelle (located in the land of Madeupistan) where we see Big Burly Men chopping up ice from a lake and singing a jaunty song while they do so. Oh, how I wish I had a job like this. Not one with the horrible and dangerous back-breaking labour in the freezing cold so much, but one with the singing in unison over even the most mundane of activities.

Working among the workers is a little boy named Kristoff and his pet reindeer Sven. This is definitely a land without child labour laws. We pan down the mountains to a lavish castle among the sea, where we meet our lead characters: Princess Elsa and her younger sister Princess Anna. Anna says she wants to build a snowman, which Elsa agrees to do. However, they don't go outside but instead to a giant empty ballroom where we learn Elsa has the ability to conjure snow and ice out of thin air.

As they play, Elsa accidentally hits Anna in the head with an ice blast that knocks her out. Panicking, she yells for her parents who quickly rush into the room. Her father comments her powers are getting out of hand, so he ends up taking Anna to a clearing out in a forest covered in rocks which are revealed to be trolls. Kristoff and Sven, who were passed by the royal family in the woods, secretly followed them and are witnessing everything that's going on. They are discovered by a female troll who proclaims she is going to adopt them. So I guess Kristoff wasn't with the Big Burly Men, they just left a small child alone to freeze to death? Are we watching Frozen or 300?

The King asks the trolls for help, their leader asking if Elsa was born with the powers or cursed. The King replies she was born with them, which I am immediately impressed by. It's refreshing to see a princess story, especially a Disney one, not involve a curse but actual mutant powers. Plus, if the whole Princess gig falls though, she can always get a job with the X-Men. I guarantee you NO ONE would miss Iceman.

The troll says he can help Anna, as fortunately head injuries are much easier to heal than heart injuries. Random exposition is random, I'm sure this will NEVER come up again. He thinks the best way to deal with any future incidents is to remove all of Anna's memories of Elsa's powers and to have Elsa stop using her powers. The King decides the best way to go about this is sealing off the castle and isolating Elsa from everyone else, including Anna. Damn, Arendelle is officially a worse place to be than the Outlook Hotel if you're a child.

Through a very sad musical montage, we watch as Anna grows up basically alone in the castle. She sings at the locked door of Elsa to come out and spend time with her, but Elsa ignores her every time. We see Elsa's powers are growing more out of control, as she is having no luck containing them. Her father gives her a pair of gloves which she always wears, as they inhibit her freezing touch.

Things only get worse as the princesses reach their mid-teens when their parents suddenly realise they're in a Disney movie and drop dead. Should have read that contract closer King, this CLEARLY isn't a DreamWorks movie. Actually they are “lost at sea” while taking a trip somewhere. There's actually a pretty neat fan theory floating around the 'Net that they were going to the wedding of Rapunzel and Flynn (from another Disney movie Tangled), which in a bit we'll see some possible evidence towards.

Three years later, it is now Coronation Day as Elsa is eighteen and going to be crowned Queen. People arrive from all the nearby lands for the event, very excited that the gates are finally going to be opened. Among the people we see Kristoff and Sven, who have both grown up to be quite bad ass looking. We also meet Obviously Evil Man, who is a duke from another land who outright plots to exploit Arendelle for all its riches.

Anna sings a song about her excitement of finally being able to open the castle and meet people. As she goes outside, she almost bumps into a familiar looking couple, if you've seen Tangled, that is. Anna finds herself face to face with the stars of that movie, Rapunzel and Flynn. This adds weight to the aforementioned theory as the two got married at the end of Tangled, which came out November 2010. The King and Queen would have gone to their wedding as we've seen any kind of event causes royals from all lands to attend. Frozen came out in November 2013, which is our “three years later” gap as we see Elsa about to become Queen.

Anna sings on, meeting a very dashing prince from the Southern Isles named Hans. They instantly have a connection as back at the palace Elsa is crowned Queen. There is a tense moment where she has to remove her gloves to take the Royal Scepter, but she is able to complete the ceremony before her powers can be revealed.

Anna spends a night on the village getting to know Hans. Through the magic of Musical Montage they fall in love and he proposes to her. They go to ask for Elsa's blessing, who keenly tells Anna she can't marry a man she just meant. Anna gets upset, getting into a confrontation with her sister. In the fray, she rips off one of Elsa's gloves which causes a massive power outburst that outs her to the crowd. Obviously Evil Man screams she's a monster as she runs away.  Elsa runs to the edge of the land, using her ice powers to cross the sea in an amazing shot. Her powers surge out of control, as she ends up freezing the entire sea and causing an instant winter in the land. Anna decides she must find Elsa to make things right, leaving Hans in charge of the kingdom.

Far away in the mountains, we find Elsa still on the run. She sings the incredibly epic “Let It Go”, which even though I've heard probably 1.3 million times already can still bring the chills. Cynical bastards might call this song “Award Show Bait” but it works so perfectly in this film and its themes you can outright dismiss that. As she sings she creates a giant palace made of ice, embracing the fact she can now use her powers and be herself. She even conjures up new clothes for herself as she raises her palace, something Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen REALLY should have thought of.

Anna travels the land on horseback searching for Elsa, but soon loses her horse as she journeys on. Freezing, she finds a trading post and goes inside to buy some warmer gear where she meets Kristoff, who is also there for supplies. They get to talking, Anna learning the winter storm is originating from the North Mountain. She asks Kristoff to take her to the mountain on his sled and he agrees, as she is sure she can end the troubles. As they travel, Kristoff is shocked to learn she's engaged to someone she barely knows. This leads to a very funny part where the sled gets attacked by a pack of wolves but Kristoff doesn't want Anna helping as he “doesn't trust her judgment”.

They escape the wolves but Kristoff's sled is destroyed in the process, Anna promising to buy him a new one. As they journey on they meet a living snowman named Olaf, whom Anna recognizes as a snowman Elsa used to build for her when they were kids. Olaf tags along to meet Elsa, as he is very curious to meet his maker.

Meanwhile back in Arendelle we see Hans kindly helping out the freezing citizens, clothing and feeding them in the castle. Anna's horse returns, prompting Hans to organize a rescue party for Anna. Obviously Evil Man sends two of his goons, instructing them to kill Elsa if she happens to pop up in the search.  Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf finally make it to Elsa's ice palace where Anna implores her sister to come back with her and end the unnatural winter. This leads to another outburst of Elsa's powers, which this time blasts Anna directly in the chest. Why, even in her heart you could say! Elsa conjures up a giant made of snow to chase them away.

During the escape from the Snow Giant, it's made very clear Kristoff and Anna are starting to have feelings for each other. Before anything happens though, he notices Anna's hair is turning white as a result of getting hit by Elsa's blast. Worried, he takes her to go see the trolls.  The troll chief examines Anna, finding out her heart is slowly freezing over and that only an act of true love can save her life. One of the trolls suggest the kiss from a true love would save her, Kristoff figures out he has to get Anna back to Hans as soon as possible for such a kiss.

It's at this point I want to say how hilarious Olaf is. Before this movie came out I thought he was going to be up there with Jar Jar Binks in terms of sheer stupidity. He clashed badly with the rest of the designs in the movie, and just looked like he'd be the not-even-remotely funny comic relief. BUT, just like this story's been putting spins on all standard fairy tale conventions so far, he's been one of the best parts of the entire movie.

As this goes on, Hans and his group arrive at the ice palace. The Snow Giant attacks them, Obviously Evil Man's goons using this as a distraction to go kill Elsa. She turns the tables and is about to kill them but is stopped by Hans (who took out the Snow Giant in badass style), who begs her not to become the monster everyone thinks she is.  One of the goons uses her hesitation as a chance to try to shoot her with a crossbow, but Hans is able to deflect the shot. The arrow hits a chandelier, which falls on Elsa and knocks her out. She awakes in a cell back in Arendelle, chained up and with restraints over her hands. Hans tells her he wouldn't let the villagers kill her, promising to talk to them on her behalf.

Shortly after, Kristoff enters the city and delivers Anna to the villagers. He doesn't stick around, not wanting to see the woman he cares about with her true love. Although you think he'd at least stay to make sure the kiss saves her life, I mean earlier he made a big deal about how she didn't really know Hans at all, so he off all people should think that perhaps he's NOT her true love and that her life is still in mortal danger.

Anna is brought to Hans and she tells him she needs a kiss of a true love to save her life. In a VICIOUS twist, Hans replies “Oh, Anna. If only there was someone out there who loved you.”. Hans then transforms into a complete James Bond villain, revealing his plan all along was to marry Anna and kill off Elsa so he could become King in his quest for power. He now adjusts things a bit, locking Anna in the room to freeze to death and going off to kill Elsa.  Probably should have made sure Anna died, but eh... assuming is just as good as physical proof, right?

Hans, now wearing a very somber face, meets with others in the castle and tells them Anna just died but fortunately they were able to exchange their wedding vows before she did. He blames Anna's death on Elsa, charging her with treason and sentencing her to death. However, when he and some soldiers go to her cell to carry out the deed they find she has escaped.  From outside the city, Kristoff sees a massive snowstorm forming over the area and starts running back. Olaf finds Anna dying in the room, starting a fire in the fireplace to keep her warm as she can barely move now. He reveals to her that Kristoff loves her, seeing him in the distance returning to Arendelle. This knowledge, combined with the heat from the fireplace, gives Anna enough strength to get up and go looking for Kristoff.

Outside, Hans has tracked down the fleeing Elsa. He tells her she killed Anna, which causes her to break down with sorrow. This also causes the storm to stop, which allows a nearby Anna to see what's going on. To one side she can see Kristoff running towards her, on the other side Hans about to kill Elsa with a sword.  She makes her choice and uses the last of her strength to run towards Elsa, jumping in the way just as Hans brings the sword down. She turns into ice right before he does, the effect shattering his sword and creating a shock wave that sends him flying back because... uh, look, we're running out of time okay?  That's how magic works, just roll with it.

Elsa cries over Anna, who almost immediately begins to unthaw. Elsa is surprised Anna sacrificed herself for her, Anna simply replying “I love you”. Olaf echoes the troll chief's words, “An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.”. This just became one of my favourite stories ever, the lifetime love two sisters have for each other takes center stage over the generic “princess finds true love in a stranger she's known for less than two hours” that we've seen a billion times over.

This makes Elsa realise love is the key to her powers, as she is able to melt the entire land and end the unnatural winter. Kristoff, who's just kind of been hanging out in the background probably surreptitiously smoking, sees Hans get up. He strides over to him in anger, but Anna intercepts and punches out Hans herself. This is awesome not for the obvious reason, but the fact we just had a Disney villain who didn't die. And didn't die HORRIBLY at that. Most of their films would have Hans die in some kind of horrific way that'd put the Saw movies to shame.

We wrap things up with Obviously Evil But Not Actually The Villain Man being forcibly sent back to his country, being told Arendelle will no longer be trading with him. Hans is also sent back to his country where his family will deal with his awful actions.  Anna presents Kristoff with that sled she owed him. He is happy, made even happier when they finally kiss. They celebrate with Elsa, who has turned the courtyard into an ice skating rink where everyone is having fun. Elsa announces the gates will never close again as we fade out.

Cue the credits.

We do get a stinger of the Snow Giant hanging out in the palace and moping around. He finds the crown Elsa had cast off when she first built the place, putting it on and feeling pretty because he's EARNED IT.

Whenever a movie ascends to ultra blockbuster status, it's usually because of one key demographic. You have Titanic with your teenage girls, Lords of the Rings with your fan boys, Transformers with your mouth breathers... My point is this will usually rub the other demographics the wrong way and the movie will get a massive backlash from them.  Frozen is definitely not one of these movies. Yes, this is a “kids' movie” but I can't see how this movie couldn't appeal to anyone: young or old, blockbuster film fan to nitpicker. The story is so smart, it defies almost every standard fairy tale trope, the acting is strong, and the music is dynamite. And of course the animation is beyond gorgeous, but would you expect anything less from Disney?

My favourite “kids' movie” of all time is Ratatouille, which I think is also one of the best movies ever made period. Frozen didn't quite hit that level of quality for me, but it's certainly hit higher than most movies I've seen in years. If you haven't seen it (which I'd almost say is impossible considering the numbers it's put up), put some time aside and watch it NOW! Just like the early classic Disney movies, this movie will live on from generation to generation, only with the added bonus of being written and done MUCH better.